IT TAKES MORE THAN TALENT: HOW STUDIOS AND PRODUCERS JUDGE COMPOSERS

I am among a tiny handful of people who have had the most conversations over the past 30 years with heads of music, music supervisors and producers regarding selecting composers.

Day in and day out, decade after decade, project after project, I hear directly what those folks talk about and care about.

These discussions basically boil down to three main factors:

MUSIC
PERSONALITY
PROFESSIONALISM

One head of music at a major studio would rate composers on two scales: MUSIC and LUNCH.

I knew exactly what was meant.

MUSIC/TALENT was being judged on such factors as opinion of quality, appropriateness for the project, dramatic sensibilities, and their personal musical taste.

LUNCH meant how good of a communicator was the composer, how attractive of a personality, and how much confidence does the composer generate in others. It is a social industry and they are looking for those who excel at communicating within a team. Being likable helps. As someone else said on this forum, people care if, “Are they a good hang?”

A third consideration in discussions is:

PROFESSIONALISM. Movies and TV shows are high stakes, high pressure enterprises. Decision-makers are looking for composers who they know can deliver.

As one former head of music memorably summed it up, they want it to be “IN TUNE AND ON TIME.” They are looking for problem solvers, not creators.

This is where past accomplishments, reputation and previous relationships matter.

THE JUDGES EXIST FOR A REASON

It is the job of heads of music, producers and music supervisors to be gatekeepers filtering through composer options to present to their directors and others on the team. They are there to offer their knowledge, thoughts and opinions on composers their director may already be considering.

If they are going to vouch for you, they need to know you are a good match with the personalities involved, are going to compose a good (and potentially great) score, and are pretty much guaranteed to deliver… IN TUNE AND ON TIME.

YOU ARE BEING JUDGED. FACE IT. DEAL WITH IT.

If you are serious about building your career, you need to understand the marketplace. You should get into the minds of those who can advance or hinder your career and address what they care about, not what you think they SHOULD care about.

Hiding behind thoughts like “Hey, Bernard Herrmann was a dick and he wrote great scores” is pretty useless towards advancing your career (1. Herrmann would be struggling to get employement in 2017. 2. Get real, you are no Bernard Herrmann.)

Thinking your music is so amazing that it will transcend your need to get past the other factors people in a position that matter care about is damaging for anyone considering a real and sustainable career.

HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR RANKING WITH OTHERS IN

MUSIC?
PERSONALITY?
PROFESSIONALISM?